Simpler is better

Manu Sporny and Ian Hickson have had an interesting, and telling, exchange about RDFa and microdata in the HTML WG list (see the opening email for the thread). In one of the emails, Hickson writes about why he created a whole new microdata section, rather than incorporate RDFa:

By “technical problems” I mean problems with the design, as opposed to
editorial problems. They’re primarily usability issues, which are to some
extent subjective. I make no apology for having an opinion on what makes a
usable language; it’s my job to have such an opinion.

Generally speaking, my position on this topic is a straightforward one:
simpler is better.

One asks: what is simple about creating an entirely new metadata solution, when there are two viable ones (microformats and RDFa) with both history and use? A new microdata section with predefined vocabularies that will be out of sync with their outer specification counterparts before the ink on HTML5 is even dry?

I haven’t touched on the microdata section of the HTML 5 specification in my little story on HTML 5 yet, because that one, in particular, is really key to everything that is wrong with the HTML 5: the specification and the process. It all really boils down to Ian and a few of his friends having opinions, and the power to enforce those opinions on the next version of the web. There are no checks. There are no balances. There is nothing but an illusion of equality and fairness.

What’s obscene is that no one really likes the microdata section, not even Ian himself. Oh, a few of his buddies manfully came out with the appropriate murmurs of delight, but none of these folks are interested in metadata. More importantly, where there is universal application of microformats and RDFa, there is no implementation that supports microdata (though I imagine one will be tossed into Opera quickly, just for spite).

In the end of the thread, when last I looked, Sam Ruby has vetted Manu Sporny’s RDFa alternative HTML 5 specification. So what does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine, but in my opinion, it does not mean that RDFa has a fair chance, any more than creating specification text for a new description of the summary or alt attributes, means these will be given a fair chance. If any of this comes down to a vote, I have no doubt that the WhatWG folks will be able to swing a majority. After all, client side data storage is sexy, summary attributes for screenreaders is not.

Having a majority does not mean that the best decision wins.

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